Vern Law set the Yankees down one-two-three in the top of first inning of Game 7. Bob Turley retired the first two Pirate batters, but then walked Bob Skinner. Rocky Nelson followed with a home run. The insertion by Danny Murtaugh of the two left-handed hitters had given the Bucs a quick 2-0 lead, one that Law seemed quite capable of holding for a good while.
In the top of the second, Law again set the Yanks down in order. When Smokey Burgess led off the Pirates half of the inning with a single, the trigger-happy Casey Stengel had seen enough. Righty Bill Stafford and lefty Bobby Shantz had been warming up since the beginning of the game. Which one would Casey bring in?
The smart money must have been on Shantz. Stafford, a rooke, had pitched only 60 innings, albeit to a 2.25 ERA. Shantz, once a top-notch starter, was now a top-notch reliever (2.79 ERA). Given his experience and his status as a relief pitcher, he might have seemed like the better candidate to pitch his way out of the second inning and continue effectively for several more. Plus, as lefty, Shantz might negate Murtaugh’s strategy of using extra left-handed batters. However, the next batters (Hoak, Mazeroski, and Law) were right-handed. Stengel must have figured that Stafford was his best bet to retire them. He could then consider pinch-hitting for Stafford in the top of the third.
Stafford walked Hoak, however, and Maz bunted for a hit to load the bases. Law was a decent hitter and had contributed with the bat in Game 4. But this time he hit a grounder to Stafford, who started a home-to-first double play. That left it up to left-handed hitting Bill Virdon. The future Yankee manager delivered a two run single. Law now had a four run lead.
Through four innings, the Yankees couldn’t touch him. Skowron homered to lead off the fifth, but there was no further damage that inning.
Meanwhile, Shantz, who came on in the bottom of the third after Lopez pinch-hit for Stafford, had the Pirates on lock-down. In his first three inning (the third through the fifth), he gave up no hits, no outfield outs, and faced the minimum number of batters. Thus, the score was Pittsburgh 4, New York 1 going into the top of the sxith.
By then, Law’s ankle was causing him obvious distress. After Richardson led off with a single and Law walked Kubek, Murtaugh pulled his pitcher and called on Elroy Face.
Face had already recorded three long saves (6 outs, 8 outs, and 8 outs). He had rested for two days after his Game 5 save, but did Murtaugh think Face could deliver a 12 out save?
Pehaps not. Perhaps, he just wanted Face to pitch out of this jam and hold the Yankees until, say, the eighth inning. Then, Murtaugh could call on one of his starters to close out the game (presumably he wasn’t about to use relievers like Clem Labine, Tom Cheney, and Fred Green who had been demolished in the Yankee routs).
But the Yankees jumped on Face almost immediately. After Maris popped up, Mantle singled and Berra homered. It was now New York 5, Pittsburgh 4.
Shantz continued his magic, setting down the Pirates in order in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh he gave up his first hit (to Smokey Burgess) but then got Hoak on a fly ball and Mazeroski and pinch-runner Joe Christopher on a double play. Hal Smith replaced Burgess behind the plate.
Face was still pitching in the top of the eighth. With two out, he walked Berra. Skowron followed with a single. Surely, it was time to pull Face, but Murtaugh did no such thing. The exhausted reliever yielded a single to Blanchard (New York 6, Pittsburgh 4) and a double to light-hitting Boyer (New York 7, Pittsburgh 4). Finally, Shantz flied out to end the inning.
Was Stengel tempted to pinch hit for Shantz. Probably not, considering the way he was mowing down the Pirates (plus Shantz was a decent hitter, who had singled earlier in the game). But Shantz had now pitched five full innings. His longest outing of the season had lasted only four.
Gino Cimoli, pinch-hitting for Face, led off the bottom of the eighth with a soft single to right-center. But Virdon followed with a ground ball right at Kubek. “Oh, heck, a double play,” is how Virdon reported his first thought. But chance intervened. The ball took a bad bounce on the Forbes Field infield (about which the Yankees had been complaining all Series). It hit Kubek in the throat. Both runners were safe and Kubek, who was splitting blood but wanted to stay in the game, was taken to the hospital. Groat then singled Cimoli home, ending Shantz’s day.
Murtaugh now had his two newly-inserted lefties — Skinner and Nelson — due up. Stengel had Luis Arroyo, a quality lefty, available (as far as I can tell) to pitch to them (assuming Murtaugh let them bat). Left-handers had batted only .152 (and righties only .223) against Arroyo on the season. But Stengel opted for the right-handed Jim Coates (13-3, 4.28; lefties .274).
Skinner bunted both runners into scoring position. Nelson followed with a fly ball out to right field. It wasn’t deep enough to bring in Virdon (at least not when his run would only make the score 7-6, and not with Maris’ arm in right).
Clemente was the next hitter. He hit a slow ground ball to Skowron at first. “Moose” had to charge the ball about ten feet wide of the foul line. He was in no position to tag the streaking Clemente and the pitcher did not make it to first base in time. Virdon scored and the Bucs had runners on first and third.
Coates was widely criticized for not getting to first in time. David Maraniss, in his biography of Clemente, says that Coates broke off the mound right away, but had to take a longer path to avoid Skowron.
Hal Smith (now the catcher, after Burgess had been replaced in the seventh for a pinch runner) was the next batter. Murtaugh presumably would rather have had Burgess at the plate, but Smith did hit with power, having homered 11 times in 258 at-bats and slugged .508 in what was his career year.
Smith was a low ball hitter and Coates tried to work him high. On a 1-2 pitch, Smith started to chase a high ball out of the strike zone, but checked his swing.
On 2-2, Coates finally threw one in Smith’s zone. Smith blasted it well beyond the 406 sign in left field.
Now it was Pittsburgh 9, New York 7. Smith was about to enter baseball lore for having hit the most dramatic World Series home run ever. The Ed Sullivan show, it has been reported, was already preparing to book Smith for an appearance on Sunday night.
But the most dramatic events were yet to occur.
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